The Supreme Court will consider whether an automotive parts firm made “unlawful inducements” when it bypassed a trade union and made a pay offer to staff directly.
It has allowed the appeal by the Unite union, which argued it was unlawful for Kostal UK to send a letter to staff that asked them to agree a pay deal that had been rejected by their trade union.
Negotiating with trade unions
In December 2015 the company wrote to employees directly, urging them to accept the offer individually or risk losing their £270 Christmas bonus if they did not.
The offer was then repeated in January 2016 to those who had not agreed to the deal and were threatened with dismissal if they did not accept it.
Last year, the Court of Appeal overturned the decisions made by the Sheffield employment tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Kostal UK v Dunkley & Others. It ruled in the company’s favour, whereas the two lower courts found it had acted unlawfully when it approached the union members directly for the purpose of ceasing collective bargaining.
Section 145B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 prohibits an employer from making offers to members of a recognised trade union (or one seeking to be recognised), where the purpose of the offer is to cease collective bargaining.
At a date yet to be set, the Supreme Court will hear the union’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has allowed Unite’s appeal against the extremely disappointing Court of Appeal’s decision last summer to overturn the previous rulings of an employment appeal tribunal and employment tribunal.
“This is a case which goes right to the heart of trade union recognition and the right to collectively bargain. It is one that we will continue to pursue to protect trade union rights and to get justice for our members.”
If successful in its appeal, the union claimed that its members at Kostal UK could be entitled to thousands in compensation. In 2017, the employment tribunal ordered the firm to pay staff more than £420,000.